Trying out British Airways’ Tom Kerridge Speedbird Café pre-order menu
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You might be caught out, unaware on your next British Airways short-haul Euro Traveller economy flight to the likes of Europe or Northern Africa. British Airways has now removed the M&S buy-on-board menu and replaced it with a new “Speedbird Café,” which it has developed with Michellin-starred celebrity Chef Tom Kerridge.
Why would this catch you out? All passengers will receive a very small drink and snack at no cost in Euro Traveller, but if you haven’t pre-ordered anything from the Speedbird Café menu, there is nothing else available to eat and drink on board — whether you are willing to pay for it or not.
For example, this is all that passengers received on my four-hour BA flight recently.
This means if you fancy a G&T after a long day of work or to start your holiday with a bang, you will need to order it at least 24 hours in advance online.
In the interest of showing you just what you can expect from the Speedbird Café and knowing I needed to eat more than the measly offering pictured above, I pre-ordered and tried the Speedbird Café on my last British Airways flight to Europe.
The ordering process is… strange. I’ve checked back through the emails I received from British Airways after booking and there is not a single reference or link inviting me to pre-order items before my flight. Nothing on the confirmation email with my ticket and invoice, nothing on the emails reminding me to upload COVID-19 documents and confirming my documents had been verified.
There was nothing in my email inviting me to check-in either because that was 24 hours before the flight, which is the cut-off time for ordering.
Instead, I had to Google how to pre-order items because I knew I needed them for this review. I can’t imagine many passengers will go to this much trouble when they are probably not even aware they can’t purchase items onboard.
Ordering is done through the online High Life shop, where you would purchase duty-free items in advance to then collect onboard or some items can be sent by post. Tom Kerridge sits directly alongside Tom Ford.
The Speedbird Cafe has its own page, where you can choose from a huge 64 different food and drinks items to pre-purchase for your flight.
There are five items developed by Tom Kerridge, who is well-known as being the very first pub chef to gain a Michelin star. There’s a hot steak and ale pie, a vegetarian wrap, brioche and two sandwiches.
You order items just as you would on a platform like Deliveroo or Just Eat and then pay for them online in advance, selecting your exact flight, date and full name. I chose most of the Tom Kerridge items as well as some “BA exclusive” items I thought would make for an interesting review.
I skipped pre-packaged food you can buy on the ground like a packet of crisps as provided it’s served to you, the experience is exactly as on the ground.
You are not required to give your seat number, as you must order before online check-in opens when some passengers would first select their seat.
My flight was less than half full and I was one of the only passengers to pre-order anything. The crew came to my seat minutes after takeoff with a crate filled with my pre-ordered items. As I had ordered quite a lot of the menu I asked if I could eat some items now, with the others later in the flight.
The crew were happy to oblige but advised the Tom Kerridge pie was already in the oven and once ready in about 10 minutes needed to be served and eaten straight away. If you do want your pie later in the flight, I’d recommend advising the crew as soon as you board so they don’t heat it immediately.
Tom Kerridge items
First, I tried the steak & ale pie (£4.50). It was delivered piping hot in a brown paper bag sitting in a foil tin. (I had to wait a good 10 minutes before eating it to avoid burning my tongue.)
The colour was a fair bit paler than the promotion picture and the pastry felt a touch soggy and undercooked but the taste was great and it was packed with chunk pieces of good quality beef.
It is pricey at £4.50, given how small it is.
Next was the vegan spiced cauliflower and chickpea wrap (£4.20), which arrived in a paper box wrapped in plastic.
I’m not a vegetarian but enjoyed this vegetarian option. The wrap had not turned mushy or soggy and there was some good fresh flavour and mild spice coating the filling. The different colours inside were appealing to the eye.
Onto the chicken, bacon and celery brioche crunch (£4.50). I’ve found brioche buns to be quite sweet in the past but was pleased to taste this bread did not have a sickly sweetness to it.
The filling was tasty and high quality and there was enough mayonnaise to ensure this did not dry out. Unfortunately, this did not travel well and some of the bottom of the brioche had become wet and a bit soggy.
Despite the good filling, I would not order this again because of the condition of the brioche.
Then there were the sandwich options. I chose the ham hock and smoked cheddar sandwich (£4.10), which again came in a paper box wrapped in plastic.
This was probably the best thing I ate on the flight and I would be very happy to be served this in a café for my lunch. The ham hock was generous thick chunks of delicious, very high-quality ham and the smoked cheddar cheese was good too — I really enjoyed this.
With so much to get through on the flight, I didn’t order the other Tom Kerridge sandwich.
Given it was a morning flight I had preordered a CRU Kafe fresh roasted organic coffee (£2.50, marked as BA exclusive) and a wolfy’s honey porridge (£1.25). The coffee was fine — it was piping hot and I appreciated the lid in case of unexpected turbulence.
The porridge was excellent — hot, creamy and just the right level of sweetness and at only £1.35 was an absolute bargain. It was small but filling.
My flight landed around lunchtime, so I had to have my afternoon tea box (£5) in the morning. This quintessentially British tradition was served in a cute little picnic-style box.
Inside was a single scone with a small pot of clotted cream and strawberry jam.
It was a touch messy but still fun to make myself afternoon tea on the flight and gathered some curious and jealous stares from passengers nearby.
I won’t argue whether the cream or jam should go on first as I know it’s a controversial British argument depending on where you are from. The scone was a little dense and stale but there was enough topping to freshen it up.
As for a tipple on my morning flight, it was a little early to tuck into the heavy Speedbird 100 Transatlantic IPA I had enjoyed pre-pandemic as British Airways celebrated its 100th year. Instead, I chose a Pickerings British Airways gin (£6.00), which was “exclusively distilled for British Airways 100th birthday” as well as a Schweppes tonic water (£1.60)
This was delicious though note that the 50ml bottle combined with the 150ml can of tonic makes for an extremely strong drink, with a ratio of 1:3 gin to tonic, much stronger than I would make at home.
You may wish to pre-order two cans of mixer.
I also tried out the Longbottom & Co Virgin Mary (£2), which was fine for a premixed Bloody Mary without the alcohol. I do miss the days of crew mixing up a Bloody Mary directly from the cart by your seat with the addition of things like a splash of tabasco or Worcestershire sauce rather than just straight from the can.
Though I had eaten and drank quite a lot, I noticed there was something missing from my order. I had also preordered a Jose Pizzaro Tapas Box (£5.95) as it was marked as another BA exclusive, but it never arrived.
I checked with the crew and it had not been loaded. These things happen and it certainly wasn’t the crew’s fault. What was even stranger was the friendly crew member checked her handheld device where the orders were stored and there was no record of it. I managed to pull up my invoice for the order on my phone offline and showed her I had indeed been charged for it.
It was frustrating that there was a glitch between my invoice and there’s but the crew member told me she would note it had not been located and I could chase up a refund for the item from British Airways after the flight.
I enjoyed most of what I ate and drank from the Speedbird Cafe on my last British Airways flight. The ordering process is quite strange — BA could be doing an awful lot more to promote the options to passengers before their flight.
The crew member specifically asked me how I had known to order anything from the Speedbird Café in advance, as so few people had done so on her flights. She advised me the driver for this system was to reduce unsold items from items loaded onto flights for buy-on-board that are not purchased.
I can appreciate this cost focus during a pandemic but at the same time, I would never ordered all of this if I wasn’t specifically reviewing it. I would likely forget to order in advance, especially if I wasn’t reminded by BA. If I knew nothing much would be served to all passengers I would probably just grab something from the likes of Pret, Itsu or even something fancy like Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food. Items like beer and coffee are impulse purchases — I don’t know on a Tuesday what I will want on a Saturday.
The items were high quality and if you can remember to order in advance there’s a good range of options at fairly reasonable to somewhat high prices. Just don’t get caught out expecting you’ll receive a meal regardless on a four-hour flight to Europe!
Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy
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